Compare and Recycle

Is Your Phone's Screen At Risk Of Burn-In?

In the era of AMOLED and OLED screens, we get a fair amount of queries about screen burn issues and how these affect a trade-in price. Read on to get your questions answered.

In this article:

What is 'screen burn'?

A screen burn, also known as ghost image, is permanent discolouration of a display in the areas that are used the most. Your display is a matrix of individual light emitting diodes or pixels. Depending on what areas of the screen on your phone are in constant use, the pixels in those areas begin to decay, subsequently ending their life-time usage and causing colour accuracy to decrease. The burn-in looks like a faded spot or in extreme cases a shadow of the previous "ghost" content on the screen wherever you are on your phone.

Why screen burn happens?

Screen burn-ins happen as a result of irregular pixel usage. The most common causes are idle screen activity, brightness levels set all the way up manually, screen time-out not being set up or having the Always On Display function turned on (Samsung, Apple and Google phones have this feature).

Pixels in the status icons and navigation bar area emit light first, therefore these screen sections are prone to wear out. These areas of the display are used more against the rest of the display and uneven use is what causes a screen burn. The fact that different colour pixels are aging at different rates also contributes to the risk.

Can 'screen burn' be fixed?

If your phone has suffered from 'screen burn' and you caught it early now looking for a fix, there's a trick. In case of a minor 'screen burn', power off your phone and leave it off for a few hours to give pixels time to 'repair' the damage.

Thanks to some very talented developers, there are colour correction apps that can help pixels recover from screen burn. The science behind these apps is that your pixels can 'exercise' and make your burn-in fade (if you have savere case of screen burn, unfortunately this solution won't get rid of it completely).

These burn-in correction apps are pretty clever. They take advantage of something called 'Inverted Colours', and the fixer app runs individual pixels in your phone's screen through various colours and brightness levels to recover them.

  • For Android, check Google Play for screen burn correction apps here.

  • For iPhone, check App Store for screen burn correction app here.

When installing the app, it will run diagnostics to identify if your screen has burn-in and parts of user interface will be hidden to stop burn-in progressing. Colours will be inverted underneath the burn-in to clear the visibility of the damage.

MASSIVE DISCLAIMER... Some users report permanent screen damage after using these tools, so use with caution only if you're on to the last resort of buying a new screen anyway.

If your phone has developed severe screen burn with permanent pixel discolouration, your only other option will be to replace the screen.

Tips to prevent 'screen burn'

Manufacturers are well aware of the issue and are implementing software solutions to avoid screen burn-ins. Luckily there are ways to increase the lifespan of your OLED and prevent screen burn from developing altogether:

Set auto-brightness

Navigate to your Settings menu and tap Display. We'd recommend turning the auto-brightness mode on (or Adaptive Brightness), so when you're indoors or outdoors the phone will automatically adjust the screen brightness for optimal use and won't have it maxed out at all times.

Use screen timeout

The less your screen stays on while inactive, the longer the lifetime of your display will be. So while you're in the Display settings, shorten your screen timeout to a convenient minimum. Most phones allow you to decrease to 15 seconds of inactivity.

Get the most out of Dark Mode

The Dark Mode reduces the strain on individual pixels because they don't need to be lit up as your interface by default is darker which acts as a burn-in preventive treatment. Black keyboards look nice and setting your theme entirely black will give a classy look to your phone's UI. But if you're against a completely dark interface, at least go with a darker keyboard as this will prevent display discolouration. We'd recommend using Dark Mode where available.

To turn Dark Mode on iPhone, go to Settings > Display and Brightness > Choose 'Dark'.

To turn Dark Mode on Android, go to Settings > Display > Select Dark mode

Change Wallpaper

Our advice is to go with solid, darker colours and change your wallpaper occasionally. OLED screens consume energy and when displays are dark or completely black the OLEDs do not burn in. Additionally, solid coloured wallpapers will contribute to longer battery life overall, so it's a win-win.

How did display technology innovate to prevent screen burn?

Apple has implemented changes and advancements in their iPhone displays to minimise the risk of screen burn-in. One notable feature is the built-in pixel refresher, which automatically refreshes the screen pixels, preventing permanent burn-in.

With the release of the iPhone 14, Apple introduced the Always On Display, showcasing a limited amount of infomation and fancy widgets at a time. Unlike LCD displays, which require blocking the always-on backlighht to show black, OLED displays do not rely on backlights and can completely turn off pixels, resulting in true black and lower battery consumption compared to LCD displays.

Software updates and algorithms

Over the years, mobile phone manufacturers have been releasing software updates that include improvements to the OLED screen's burn-in prevention features. All implementations are great because as the updates continue to develop, they will become more effective at preventing screen burn-in and extend the lifespan of OLED displays.

Apple has released software updates for the iPhone and iPad which include a number of burn-in prevention features including:

  • Reduce Motion: This feature reduces the amount of animation and motion on the screen, which helps to reduce the risk of burn-in.
  • Always On Display: This feature displays a clock and other information on the screen even when the phone is locked. With the controversy surrounding this update and iPhone users complaining about premature screen burn-in and battery life draining, Apple has updated this feature to reduce the amount of power it uses, which can help to prevent burn-in.
  • Pixel Refresher: This feature periodically refreshes the pixels on the screen, which helps to prevent them from becoming permanently burned in.

Similarly, Samsung has released software updates for its Galaxy S and Note devices that include a number of burn-in prevention features:

  • Motion Smoothness: This feature reduces the amount of motion blur on the screen, which helps to reduce the risk of burn-in.
  • Always On Display: This feature displays a clock and other information on the screen even when the phone is locked. Samsung has updated this feature to reduce the amount of power it uses, which can help to prevent burn-in.

Wrap Up

Unfortunately, it's quite tricky to spot a burn-in with an untrained eye or no professional equipment at hand, therefore it's best to implement preventative measures early on so your screen can stay in its best condition for as long as possible.

When trading your phone, you might quite easily be unaware your phone has a burn-in. When your device has been sent off and a recycler performs their inspections, burn-in specific tests will take place and you will be notified of the results. If your device has suffered from burn-in, your quote will most likely be downgraded to a "Poor" or "Broken" grade as for a permanent burn-in the display needs to be replaced. So, before it's too late, start following the tips we've discussed above to enjoy your displays for longer.


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